Tonawanda News — The number of Erie County residents placed in emergency homeless shelters in 2012 increased by 14 percent from 2011, according to the department of social services.
Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, and accounted for approximately one-third of those placements in 2012.
“There are many reasons why individuals and families become homeless and it can affect anyone. The strain and damage it can do to individuals and families can be devastating,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.
On an average night, 45 families and 76 single adults are placed in a shelter by the department. As of Tuesday, social services has made 518 placements in emergency shelters, with 148 of those being families with children.
According to a statement from the social services department, most families become homeless as a result of an unexpected crisis, such as losing their job or a medical emergency.
Despite the discouraging news, the average length of a family’s stay in the shelter is relatively short — just 25 days. Public assistance is available in the form of rent, job and housing placement assistance.
“Anyone facing the loss of their home doesn’t have to face that uncertainty alone. Help is available through Erie County and our network of partners to assist residents as they and their families return to stability and independence,” Poloncarz said.
The department works in coordination with various homeless shelters in the area, such as the Buffalo City Mission, Salvation Army and Haven House.
“Understanding homelessness requires a grasp of several social issues: poverty, affordable housing, disabilities, and others,” the Erie County Social Services Assistant Deputy Commissioner Karen Rybicki said. “No two cases are the same, but there are many ways to help people who are in danger of becoming homeless.”